Talk about excitement.. the last week has been busy with crazy, cool and exciting things!
We left Jeff’s for Queenstown – of all places in New Zealand this is the place that we heard the most about.. the adventure capital of New Zealand full of adrenaline junkies, hikers, bikers, and Backpackers whose bank accounts have run out of steam and have stopped to find work.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, Queenstown was a bit of party for us. It was a place we knew we were going to go out and probably spend a little bit more than we normally would allow ourselves but we budgeted for it.
We spent our first day in Queenstown once we settled into our hostel, in the main part of town and walked around window shopping. After we got bored of looking at things we couldn’t afford we grabbed some ciders and drank on the lawn in front of the lake looking at the Remarkables mountain range.
We had dinner at the Red Rock Pub which was organized by the Kiwi Experience Bus. We ate halloumi cheese and veggie skewers with cous cous and a beer (YUUUUUM). Christie our WWOOFer friend from Wanaka met up with us for a bit as well as our friend Ash (a Whistler friend of Rachel’s). After dinner we drank a bit by the water meeting up with some more of Rachel’s biking friends and then finally planted ourselves at ‘The World Bar’ near our hostel for some dancing.
The next day, we got delicious breakfast burritos and iced coffees at Joe’s Garage with Ash and then went back down the our grassy patch by the lake to soak in a few more rays.
That afternoon we had our big spend adventure- White Water Rafting on the Shotover River. Our amazing boss Randy gave us a gift before we left of a little cash to spend on something wild and crazy – something we normally wouldn’t do. I had never really done rafting before and Rach had done a version of rafting in Whistler but we both agreed that this would be an amazing opportunity and we decided to go for it. The road there took us about 40 minutes and probably was the scariest part of the whole adventure – we took the most dangerous road in New Zealand – basically a rickety old van driving through a mountain range with no guard rails. The rafting part was also amazing – we were in a raft of 5 people and spent about 3 hours learning the rafting commands (safety first!) and then crushing and crashing through the river and the rapids (some of the rapids named were named Jaws, Toilet, and Oh Shit).
After rafting we were starved and ended up meeting up with our Kati Kati friends for a burger from Devils Burger (the Ferg Burger line was outrageous and we were too hungry to wait). This was probably the best burger I have had since we were in Munich. On a scale of 1 to good it was amazing.
After we had full tummies, we walked to check out a cool bike park that Rach wanted to see called Gorge Road which according to the biking world is legendary. Even though I’m not a big biker I have to admit I was impressed. I could also see how amazed and happy Rachel was to be there and see it!
That night I was gassed from all the excitement of last couple days so I called it an early night and journal-ed and packed for the Routeburn while Rach went out to meet up with a biking friend.
The Routeburn Track – (HOLY CRAP I STILL CANT BELIEVE WE DID THIS)
The morning on March 3rd we woke up early, got breakfast, got food for the next couple days, hopped on the bus at 12:30 and made our way to the start of the track.
Our menu for the next couple of days included:
– instant oatmeal for breakfast
– canned tuna, pita, & hummus for lunch
– the New Zealand equivalent of ‘Fruit 2 Go’ bars for snack
– Pasta and Budget Pasta Sauce for dinner
– 1 Mars Bar each
– Some packets of Green Tea
We rented some pots to cook with and Rach rented a 50L bag so she actually ended up carrying my sleeping bag and most of the food because I only had a 20L bag and we didn’t need to take two huge bags. My best friend is a STAR 💗. (For the record I offered to carry it as well I didn’t just throw it on her back and say let’s hike! 😉 )
The track altogether Would take us 3 days & 2 nights. It was raining when we got off the bus.. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about that but we made the most of it and took in the moody atmosphere that the misty clouds and mountains provided us.
We hiked for about 3 hours until we got to our first hut – The Routeburn Falls hut. The Great Walks huts are pretty luxurious complete with beds and mattresses, gas stoves, a wood stove, lots of tables and seats for eating.When we arrived, Rach took a nap and I went into the main cabin and made a cup of tea and since there is no wifi, no plugs, no room in bags to carry big entertaining board games, the best form of entertainment is playing cards and chatting to new people. I made friends playing President (a card game) with a father and a son from Auckland. After 8 or 9 rounds the sun came out so we could actually see the view from the hut so we ended our game to go take a few pictures and admire it.
Around then, I realized what time it was based on the sound my stomach was making (there are also no clocks out there) so I decided to make dinner. While I was waiting for the water to boil I got talking to the gentleman using the burner next to me. His name was Garry and he was in New Zealand for a month with his wife and their hiking group called the Seattle Mountaineers. This was his last night but over the last month in New Zealand he completed the Milford Track, the Kepler Track, the Great Walk in Abel Tasman and were finishing off with the Routeburn hike. We enjoyed each other’s company so much ended up eating our dinners together chatting about all the different hikes and places he had been. At the end of the meal he slipped me a Whittaker’s Dark Chocolate bar saying that no hiker should go without a little chocolate. How sweet!
Basically after dinner everyone goes to bed because it dark and you can’t see. I was in bed at 9. It was a bit chilly so I didn’t have the best sleep of my life but I’m out in a National Park in the middle of a mountain range. It’s understandable.
The next day the sun played hide and seek pretty much all day but there was no rain so thank God for that. The hike was pretty steep up to Harris Saddle and once we got up there we decided to do an additional Side Track called Cornical Peak. This was really tough – probably the toughest part of the whole hike – we had to use our hands for a big chunk of it both going up and coming down. But it was incredibly rewarding.. once we got to the top we could see as far as the Tasman Sea!
The rest of the hike was pretty much in the clouds with the occasional mountain siting. I was feeling a little bummed but during the safety talk the Hut Warden gave us that night he said that there had only been 15 sunny days since OCTOBER…. so I didn’t feel so bad.. and it’s the Fiordland after all – it’s known for mystical weather and clouds.
That night Rach and I ate dinner with a family of 4 from Queenstown. They had two younger kids Violet (8) and Jackson (10). We had a really great chat and many laughs over dinner talking about all kinds of things ranging from travel and hiking to favourite party tricks/games (age appropriate of course).
The next and final day of the hike we cranked out in about 3.5 hours even though the estimated time to complete it was 5 hours… which meant we were two hours early for our shuttle. Luckily a friendly couple from Vermont that we befriended at the start of the hike, pretty much did the same thing and waited with us.. they even shared some PB&J sandwiches with us which I haven’t had since I was maybe 10. It was awesome.
We caught the shuttle and headed to Te Anau, a small town of 2,000 people where we would spend one night relaxing, sleeping and eating victory pizza to celebrate the completion of another huge Milestone in our trip. WOOO!
I’m genuinely thrilled that we were able to see this part of New Zealand. Milford Sound is known as the 8th Wonder of the World… I would not hesistate to agree although I haven’t really seen all that much of the world.. but this had me completely winded and giddy. The fiords all carved out by glaciers are gorgeous and spooky with their low clouds covering the tips of the mountains so you actually don’t know where they end, you just have to guess or wait for them to uncover themselves. Our cruise through the Sounds took almost 2 hours and at the end the boat took us right under a glacial fed water fall that was about the same height as a 50 story building. It was cold and we got soaked but it was SO COOL!! They also gave us free tea to warm up which was the cherry on top!
After the cruise the bus took us to a town outside Te Anau (not sure what it was called) where we transferred to the next bus that would take us down to Invercargill. We didn’t reach Invercargill until almost 9pm. When we were in Hokitika we met a lovely family of 6 that were staying at Drifting Sands as guests. Dean (the dad) and I struck up a good conversation while we were there and he ended up invited Rachel and I to come and stay with him if we planned on passing through Invercargill which we decided to take him up on.
We are currently sleeping out in his luxury camper van parked outside the house. Dean and Stacey have done a lot of travelling themselves and it’s really comforting to Rachel and I because they get the whole backpacking lifestyle. They have been more than generous and have even invited us to share meals with them! We have also extended our WWOOFer offer and told them to please put us to work with whatever tasks they wanted a hand with. You can tell they are a loving family home as their house is plastered with all kinds of family photos. It’s warm and cozy and so generous.
Today will be a relaxing day getting back on our feet after a week of thrills. Sleep-in, laundry, showers, catching up with with friends and family and then getting ready to explore the city tomorrow!
Sending lots of love from the Deep South! ❤️xx